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By Sister Marilín Llanes, OP
Director and Portfolio Manager
Portfolio Advisory Board Office

Founded in 2005, Windmill Microlending opened its doors to skilled immigrants and refugees who land in Canada to rebuild their lives. The organization is committed to crafting the needed financial products and equipping clients, who don’t have established credit ratings or collateral, with the resources that promote economic mobility and equity.

The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) members on June 7, 2024, unanimously approved a loan to Windmill. 

Dr. Maria Eriksen, a Calgary-based clinical psychologist, was disheartened to learn custodial staff at the hospital where she worked were internationally trained professionals. Their credentials were not recognized and they could not practice their professions due to an array of obstacles ranging from language barriers, high licensing costs, and a limited understanding of the Canadian system. When Dr. Eriksen learned about the challenges these skilled immigrants faced, she took action steps that consequently changed the lives of thousands of new settlers across Canada.  

Windmill offers financial support with affordable, low-interest loans of up to $15,000 to pay for accreditation, training, and career development. Its mission-driven way is well aligned with the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Enactment that beckons us to “building the beloved community in which everyone is cared for, absent of poverty, hunger and hate.” 

Binal, a dentist from Mississauga, Ontario, calls her Windmill Microlending Career Success Coach, Robert, “an angel in my life,” who helped her and her family at a time when they were truly in need.

She says the Windmill loan application process was simple and responsive. Robert was there to answer questions and provide financial and career advice through the entire process, which she completed from home. 

“My Windmill loan really changed my life. I was preparing for my final exam to get my credential to become a dentist,” she said. “We were in a dire financial situation and Robert shared with me the good news.” 

Binal was on maternity leave at the time and was struggling to pay for her professional accreditation exams and no financial institution would extend her the funds needed to complete the licensing process. She had been referred to Windmill Microlending by one of her dental instructors, so Binal applied for a loan and was approved within five business days. 

Binal’s Windmill loan helped her pay for childcare while she studied as well as her exam fees. It also meant she wouldn’t need to return to long shifts at a sandwich shop. With the financial pressure relieved, Binal completed her exams and is now back working in her chosen profession, bringing smiles to her patients. 

She says her early years in a new country proved challenging but with Robert and Windmill’s support, her future is bright and her potential is unlimited.

The Windmill microlending invests in financial resilience for transformative impact in the lives of skilled immigrants and refugees across Canada.

Watch a video of Binal describing her experience with Windmill.

Pictured during the Boys and Girls Club of Lenawee Blue Door Award presentation are, from left, Cody Waters, Chief Executive Officer of Boys and Girls Club of Lenawee, and members of the Congregation’s Adrian Resilient Community Committee: Sisters Sharon Weber, OP, and Patricia Harvat, OP, Joel Henricks, Sister Janet Doyle, OP, Sara Stoddard, and Jennifer Hunter.

July 12, 2024, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Adrian Resilient Community Initiative – approved in 2022 by the 2016-2022 General Council – is making a difference in the lives of youth who live in Adrian’s Historic East Side. 

The initiative, Growing up Resilient: The East Adrian Youth Resilience Collaborative, focuses on connecting participating youth and their families in East Adrian and the two Hispanic neighborhoods on the outskirts of Adrian with available community resources to expand literacy and family education and to connect the families with the resources they need. 

The plan includes developing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs housed at the Boys and Girls Club of Lenawee and creating an Adrian Dominican Sisters Youth Learning Center and computer lab, to be housed in Ebeid Learning Center of ProMedica. This healthcare system encompasses southeastern Michigan and northern Ohio. 

Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and the general public heard more about the initiative and its progress during a Lunch and Learn program offered June 12, 2024, at Weber Retreat and Conference Center.

“Our intent was not to duplicate efforts but to work collaboratively with other groups” to meet the needs of youth in the marginalized Historic East Side of Adrian, said Jennifer Hunter, Chief Operating Officer for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, and Co-chair of the Adrian Resilient Community Initiative Committee with Sister Sharon Weber, OP. 

The committee compared the population of the East Side with those of the rest of Lenawee County to determine the needs of the youth and families in that area and discovered several disparities. For example, 30% of East Adrian households are below the poverty line, compared to 11% in the rest of the community. 

Their discovery “formed our committee’s vision: a collaborative initiative among community members to provide youth in East Adrian with an opportunity for age-appropriate education and assistance in overcoming barriers,” Jennifer said.

Cody Waters, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Lenawee, spoke of the various programs offered by the club. Programs offer children the opportunity to develop in the areas of character and leadership, health and sports, academics, art, and career development.

In particular, Cody spoke of the organization’s summer camps to offer children a safe place while they experience art and enrichment in reading and mathematics. In the club’s peer-to-peer program, he said, older students help younger students improve their reading skills. 

Boys and Girls Club of Lenawee also relies on volunteers to help the children. “We want kids to enjoy what they’re doing and we want volunteers to enjoy it,” Cody said. “Relationship building is the key thing. Our team is trying to come up with different ways to get more mentors into the building.”  

Frank Nagel, Director of Community Impact for ProMedica, spoke of the healthcare system’s practice of screening patients for social factors that put them at a high risk. “When we have a patient at high risk for food insecurity, we can see at a ZIP Code level how these factors are taking place,” he said. People in Adrian’s ZIP Code, 49221, were in the “top five” of geographic areas with the need for greater resources, he said.

ProMedica first established an Ebeid Neighborhood Promise in Toledo “to address the gaps people have in attaining the resources they need,” Frank said. With the power of collaboration in Adrian, he said, “we can make sure that people are empowered to make lifestyle changes” that would improve their lives.

Lynne Punnett, Manager of Community Resilience for the resilience initiative in Adrian, said the Ebeid Center in Adrian has, since September 2023, been offering programs in areas such as financial literacy, home ownership, and parenting.  

This summer, the Ebeid Neighborhood Promise of Adrian is offering a six-week Literacy Pop-Up program in Adrian. For six mornings in June and July, children will be mentored as they focus on reading, writing, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), Lynn said. Volunteer mentors include godparents, community members, and six Adrian Dominican Sisters.  

Partnership with the Adrian Dominican Sisters has “catalyzed this work … and brought us to a whole new level,” Frank said. “The power of this collaboration and partnership has been a humbling experience. I look forward to seeing the progress that is made because of our partnerships.”      

In late Spring, Boys and Girls Club of Lenawee publicly recognized the initiative by bestowing its Blue Door Award on the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “Through their generosity and steadfast support, the ‘Blue Door’ to our Club has been opened to so many local youth, and with the establishment of this new mentorship initiative, their impact on our Club and youth throughout the county will remain for decades and decades to come,” said Sara Herriman, Director of Development and Community Relations. 

“It was wonderful to be honored by and to partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Lenawee, an organization that has served the youth of our community so well for many years now,” Sister Sharon said.

“We were honored to be notified that the Adrian Dominican Sisters were being awarded the Blue Door Award by Boys and Girls Club of Lenawee,” Jennifer said.

•    Growing up Resilient is one of six initiatives developed by various regional groups of Adrian Dominican Sisters in response to the Congregation’s 2016 Resilient Communities Enactment. The other initiatives are:

•    Developing Resiliency in the Community of San José, Preravia Province, Dominican Republic. This initiative supports the construction of a technical school to offer training to local residents in fields needed by the local community.

•    Creating a More Resilient Immigration Community in McKinley Park (Illinois). The proposal is to establish a Comprehensive Adult Education Hub at Aquinas Literacy Center in Chicago’s McKinley Park neighborhood to offer GED instruction and literacy programs in the areas of computers, finances, the environment, and civics.

•    An investment to construct a second building at the Dominican School of Angeles City in the Mining barangay, Province of Pampanga, Philippines.

•    Affordable Housing as a Platform for Education Equity and Community Resilience. In partnership with Mercy Housing Northwest (MHNW), the initiative calls for extra in-house academic programs and social opportunities for children and their families in affordable MHNW housing projects to help them succeed academically.

•    The Empowering Resilient Women Initiative provides women in Flint, Michigan, who suffer from abuse with the resources they need to gain control of their lives, support for their families, and develop stronger communities.




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